Take your kids to experience a working dairy with Farm Visit in Dungog. Teaching my kids about where their food comes from is so important, so when I stumbled across the opportunity to take them to a small, working dairy at Dungog, we jumped at the chance.
Just an hour from Newcastle, Farm Visit, is the wonderful business venture of Dungog farming friends Emily Neilson and Karen Sowter, who wanted to connect people with the world of agriculture and help bridge the gap between growers and farmers and consumers. And what a fantastic idea it is! We booked the 2-hour-session and all group visits are capped at 10 people, so it’s a terrific small group where you can really get close to the action and learn all about the dairy industry in a relaxed and easygoing atmosphere.
From the moment we arrived at the lush green dairy, we felt instantly welcomed by Emily. The tour starts with a general talk on all things cows, set against the captivating rolling green hills of beautiful Dungog, which is dotted with black and white cows grazing in the fields.
A stroll to the nearby calf shed and the cute factor hits overload. This is where the real fun starts! Emily encourages the kids to ask all sorts of questions about what the calves eat, how old they are when they are taken to the sheds and why and what happens next for these cows.
The kids are encouraged to pat the beautiful calves, some as young as three days old! With a big warm bottle of milk ready, they are then given the chance to feed the babies and it’s just the most lovely experience. The calves happily guzzle away while Emily explains how long it takes for a calf to begin producing milk, how much these cows eat and how much milk they make.
It’s interesting stuff and really helps all the visitors, but kids in particular, to value the amount of work and time that comes into producing a fresh bottle of milk (not to mention cheese, cream or yoghurt!)
After a good wash of the hands, Emily then took us on a tour of the milking sheds. This small dairy has around 100 cows and each are named and loved like members of the family. We learnt about how the milking machines work, how often the cows are milked and where the milk goes before the truck comes and takes it to be pasteurized.
A little break in the schedule and it’s taste testing time! There’s Devondale milk poppas for all the kids (made from Emily’s cow milk!) and cheese tastings for all! Meanwhile, Emily has a nifty butter churner and we are all given the chance to turn some fresh cream into beautiful butter – amazing!
The kids loved turning the handle and watching the process- food education in action! And the best bit? Tasting this creamy, freshly churned butter on a stick of soft bread after all the hard work.
As we take our last bites of cheese, we see the cows gently making their way in a perfect line towards the gates of the milking sheds. Emily takes us back down to the sheds to watch the girls being loaded into the stalls, and with the help of her husband Matt, the afternoon milking begins.
My children were captivated as they watched the cows eat their grain and be milked. The smells, the sounds, the hard work gave us all a new appreciation of the time and effort it takes to put milk on our breakfast each day.
It takes Emily and Matt around three hours to milk their herd, twice a day, often in the early morning hours of darkness and rain or freezing cold conditions. And with two young children at home!
This is no mean feat and it really emphasises the value of supporting these small, family-run farms. Before the session ends, there are plenty of photo opportunities and you can really get close to the milking action, making this a truly terrific experience for the whole family!
Good to Know:
Website: Farm Visit At Dungog
Best for: Group sessions, families, school groups and tour groups are all welcome.
When: Weekend sessions and extra dates during the school holidays or by appointment.
What to take: Gumboots, wet weather gear if the weather is questionable, a warm jacket in winter and plenty of questions!
Bookings: You can choose 1-hour morning sessions or 2-hour afternoon sessions via booking page or contact Emily directly for private tours. Currently, you’ll need to book for a private group of 10.
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When Odette Tonkin isn’t writing, she’s chasing after her four kids on their Newcastle urban acreage, surrounded by her veggie garden, chooks and bees! Odette has worked as a newsreader, public relations officer and spent over ten years as a writer and editor at Pacific Magazines, writing for a bunch of magazines including TV Hits, Girlfriend, K-Zone, Total Girl, New Idea and Famous.